How Do I Know if I Ovulated?
Guest Blog By: Dr. Anjali Kasunich
Dr. Anjali Kasunich is a California-licensed Naturopathic Doctor, founder of Mantra Natural Medicine, and in-house health practitioner at Erewhon. She’s passionate about helping people understand and heal what’s causing their symptoms. When she’s not treating patients in her private practice, Dr. Anjali enjoys spending time with her husband and dog, dancing, and being in her garden. You can learn more about Dr. Anjali and her favorite healthy tips by visiting her website (DrAnjaliND.com), or Instagram (@DrAnjali_ND).
Did you know that a female’s face becomes more symmetrical during ovulation1? Some scientists have also found that a woman who is ovulating may smell, walk and even sound different during that fertile time frame. Neat, right?! Why does this happen and why is it all important? In this article, I’ll highlight what you need to know about ovulation, ways to tell when you’re ovulating and how to support this process.
What exactly is ovulation?
Ovulation is the time during a female’s menstrual cycle when she releases a mature egg from her ovaries. The egg can be fertilized by sperm for about 12 to 24 hours after it’s released. If this happens and the fertilized egg can implant in the uterus, you’re pregnant!
Keep in mind that a woman typically only releases one egg every cycle (the average menstrual cycle is about 28 days long), and there are numerous hormones involved before, during and after ovulation. For example, estrogen levels should rise during the first half of the menstrual cycle in order to trigger a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) - a brain hormone that triggers ovulation at high levels. After ovulation, progesterone levels rise to promote an optimal environment for fertilization and pregnancy.
Why is Ovulation Important?
Ovulation is necessary for pregnancy to occur naturally. That’s why the body does all it can to be as alluring as possible during this phase. But there are many benefits of ovulation that go way beyond making a tiny human.
These benefits include:
Bone protection, Healthy brain function, Blood sugar regulation, Heart health and Muscle building
It’s important to mention that it can be normal for a woman to not ovulate every month even when she has regular, 28-day cycles. However, when this happens more than once in a while and is accompanied by other symptoms like irregular, painful or heavy periods, I recommend further evaluation to determine why you’re not ovulating. For example, PCOS is a condition that commonly disrupts ovulation.
How to Know When You’re Ovulating
There are many different ways to determine if and when you’re ovulating. I find that a combination of these different methods gives the best picture of when you expect to be ovulating.
Use Your Calendar
Ovulation typically happens about 14 days before the start of your menstrual period. For women who keep track of their periods and know when to expect them, this can be a helpful marker.
Keep in mind, this is only an approximation, so it’s not advised to use this as a sole estimator of ovulation. Additionally, women who have irregular cycles may not ovulate during this window of time. That’s when the options below can be better to try.
Monitor Your Basal Body Temperature
Your basal body temperature is also known as your resting temperature. Your basal body temperature rises slightly during ovulation and continues to rise days after ovulation3.
It’s best to use a thermometer designed to check basal body temperature and measure your temperature with it every morning before getting out of bed. You can track these results in your calendar to see your patterns, or you can use technology like Daysy or Natural Cycles which come with a thermometer and app to help predict when you’re fertile.
Also known as cervical mucus, this is the gel-like discharge that you may see at certain points of your cycle. This method may sound less appealing, but I promise it gives very valuable information and is worth noticing.
Here’s what to look for:
Immediately before ovulation:
Lots of clear, stretchy, watery and slippery vaginal mucus with the consistency of egg whites.
Still clear, stretchy, egg-white mucus.
After ovulation :
Some thicker, cloudy and almost glue-like mucus.
Some women experience pain around one of their ovaries during ovulation. This painful sensation is also known as mittelschmerz - the German word for “middle pain.” This can also be accompanied by breast tenderness, increased libido and spotting.
Keeping track of your physical symptoms in a calendar can help you better recognize when and if you were ovulating that month.
LH strips can be found in most pharmacies and detect levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine. Right before ovulation, LH levels rise substantially in order to trigger ovulation. Ovulation typically happens about 24 to 36 hours after this surge in LH.
Once you’ve narrowed down a time frame of when you may expect to ovulate (using the methods described above), you can use the LH strips during those days to figure out if you have a surge in LH. This can be especially helpful for anyone who is trying to become pregnant and would like to time their intercourse around ovulation.
Tips for Supporting Ovulation
Now that you’re all excited about ovulating, you may be wondering how to help this process along?
Here are some of my top tips to support your body and facilitate healthy ovulation!
- Seed cycling - A great way to get food-based nutrients that your ovaries need & love!
- Balance your blood sugar - Adding healthy fiber and protein to every meal helps to stabilize blood sugar throughout the day.
- Eat foods rich in antioxidants - Vegetables, fruits (especially berries) are a wonderful source of these.
- Consume healthy fats - Healthy fats like olive oil, avocado oil, ghee, nuts and seeds all provided the building blocks to make many of the hormones that regulate ovulation.
- Manage stress - High stress can prevent ovulation. Having a daily mind-body practice and eliminating stressors helps to balance all of your hormones.
- Roberts SC, et al. Female facial attractiveness increases during the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle. Proc Biol Sci. 2004 Aug 7; 271(Suppl 5): S270-S272. DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1810066/
- Gueguen, Nicolas. Gait and menstrual cycle: ovulating women use sexier gaits and walk slowly ahead of men. Gait Posture. 2012 Apr;35(4):621-4. DOI: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22245227
- Vigil P, et al. Ovulation, a sign of health. The Linacre Quarterly. 2017 Nov; 84(4): 343-355. DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5730019/